Learn more about history through artifacts and objects

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

By Paul Birkhead
Rowan Public Library

The history of the United States of America is not very long in comparison to other world nations. However, many exciting events have occurred in that short amount of time and numerous personalities have played a role in making the history of our young nation a fascinating subject.

Several books in the Rowan Public Library’s collection feature places and artifacts that help tell America’s story.

“Here is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History” is a book by Andrew Carroll that details his journey across America looking for unheralded historical sites. What inspired Carroll to document these lost, forgotten and neglected places? The inspiration came from a site in New Jersey where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, was saved from what could have been a fatal accident by the actor Edwin Booth.

Ironically, Edwin was the brother of President Lincoln’s assassin. Carroll’s interest in the event led him to research where it had taken place. He found that he had actually travelled by that particular spot in Jersey City, N.J. numerous times without realizing it. He then wondered how many other historical places were forgotten and how many he could find. Quite a few, as it turned out.

Sometimes history lives on through artifacts that have been handed down through generations. Shards of wood, locks of hair and pieces of stone are not very exciting in their own right. But with a little bit of documentation, these ordinary objects can seemingly transport you back in time.

“Souvenir Nation” is a wonderful book featuring photographs of and stories about various keepsakes and curios that have ended up in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Some of the cherished relics include an oak cane made from wood from Independence Hall, a framed collection of locks of hair from the first 14 American presidents, and a wooden chip from the building (in Salisbury) where Andrew Jackson studied law.

The Smithsonian Institution is a collection of museums and research centers, many of which are dedicated to the preservation and study of the heritage of America. Nicknamed “The Nation’s Attic,” the Smithsonian has more than 138 million items in its holdings.

Can you imagine the task of narrowing down that collection to feature just 101 items? That’s precisely what a team of Smithsonian curators and scholars did in order to publish the book, “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects.” While each item featured in the book is valuable on its own, together this small collection presents a priceless history lesson.

“A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History” is another book that helps tell the story of America. The author, Tim Grove, has worked in many of the nation’s top history museums over the past 20 years and he wrote this book to give the reader a behind-the-scenes look at their inner workings.

There are many interesting stories from Grove’s career which has taken him to such places as Williamsburg, Va., and Washington, D.C.
It was during a three-year stint in St. Louis that the infamous grizzly from the book’s title appeared. Throughout the book, the author’s predilection for history is evident and explains his success as a museum educator.

If studying American history is your passion or you are just curious about the many interesting persons or events that have made this country what it is today, check out these and other titles at Rowan Public Library.

Summer reading:  Children who read 20 hours receive a special certificate and are entered in the 20-Hour Reader Raffle to be held Aug. 10.

Under the Sea Art Gallery: East Regional, Saturday, Aug. 22, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Receptions and display of ocean-themed children’s artwork. Light refreshments and open to all. The art is made  by rising kindergarteners through eighth-graders. After the reception, artwork will be on a rotating display in the children’s room of the east branch. For more details, call 704-216-7742.

Adults summer reading: Be Your Own Hero, Monday, Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m., headquarters. Grand prize drawing held.

Assume your own alter ego and come dressed as your favorite character — literary or cinematic (book, stage or movie). Awards for best costume include most recognizable literary character, most original, best movie hero(ine), etc. Show us what you know at “trivia crack” game. Free refreshments and prizes at this end-of-summer bash.

Reads to Reels: August Book Bites Club. “Chocolat.” Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m., South Rowan Regional. Escape the ordinary with a delicious discussion of “Chocolat” by Joanne Harris. Copies of the book are available at all three library locations. Screening of the film adaptation of “Chocolat” (PG13), accompanied by a few treats sure to make your mouth water. Please call 704-216-7841 for more details.

Summer movie series: All movies start at 6:30 p.m. Headquarters. Aug. 11, “Captain America” (PG13). Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.

Dr. Who Comics Day: Saturday, Aug. 15, 2-3 p.m., headquarters. Teens are invited to create Dr. Who related crafts. Free and open to middle and high school teens. Bring your sonic screw drivers and Red Fez Hats for an interactive viewing of “Dr. Who: Day of the Doctor,” at 3 p.m. Aug. 15. Open to all ages.

Friends concert series: BackPorch Bluegrass, headquarters, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7-9 p.m. The band is from Wilkes County and is known for traditional hard-driving bluegrass. Sample the music at http://backporchbluegrass.com/music. Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Sponsored by Friends of Rowan Public Library.

Computer classes: If you’re new to computers or never felt comfortable, Computer Basics is for you. The class will cover the very basics. Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7-8:30 p.m., headquarters.

Displays: Headquarters, Community Care Clinic; South, lunch boxes by Sharon Ross; East, lunch boxes by Sharon Ross.

Gallery at headquarters: Photographic prints and tintypes by David Lamanno.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.